Housing Policy

Ilhan Omar's $1 Trillion Housing Proposal Is an Expensive Joke

The Homes for All Act misdiagnoses the roots of the country's housing problems, then adds a boundless faith in the feds' ability to solve them.


Rep. Ilhan Omar (D–Minn.) is the latest politician to release an ambitious, expensive proposal to fix America's affordable housing problem. The congresswoman, a member of the so-called "Squad" of recently elected leftist legislators, wants to spend $1 trillion building new public housing.

"Our current free-market housing system is not meeting the needs of working families," said Omar in a press release last week announcing her Homes for All Act. "Housing is a fundamental human right. It's time we as a nation acted like it and end the housing crisis once and for all."

To secure this fundamental human right, Omar's legislation would spend $800 billion over the next 10 years developing 9.5 million new units of public housing. Another $200 billion would be spent through the existing federal Housing Trust Fund to subsidize the development of 2.5 million private affordable housing units.

Omar's bill would also create a $200 billion grant program to help local governments fight gentrification. The legislation doesn't explain how exactly these local governments would use the money to do that.

All told, this would roughly triple federal housing spending. It would also come with a lot of new regulatory strings attached.

New housing projects funded by Omar's bill would have to be located close to transit, be built to "the highest possible environmental standard," and come with access to free social services that would help tenants secure "healthcare, employment, education, childcare, financial literacy and other community-based supportive services."

Omar's Homes for All Act is the latest in a series of far-reaching housing proposals released by such progressives as Sen. Bernie Sanders (I–Vt.) and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D–N.Y.).

Unlike Sanders' or Ocasio-Cortez's plans, Omar's bill does not include a call for a national rent control standard. That's about the best thing you can say about it.

"The country does need more housing. This is literally the worst way to accomplish that," says Salim Furth, a housing policy expert at George Mason University's Mercatus Center.

Furth points out that federal public housing projects like the kind Omar is proposing concentrate poverty, often worsening the social problems they're intended to address.

"You are taking people who most need to be in a strong neighborhood," he says, "and putting them all in one place. The worst slums of the 20th century were created by the government using this model." By contrast, federal housing voucher programs that encourage people to move to lower-poverty neighborhoods have positive effects on income and educational attainment.

Omar's bill also relies on a farcical assumption that $1 trillion in new spending will produce 12 million new housing units. That works out to a per-unit cost of $83,000.

A 2018 study from the Government Accountability Office found that the cost of building new units under the federal government's current flagship affordable housing program, the Low-Income Housing Tax Credit program, ranged from $126,000 in low-cost Texas to $323,000 in California. Costs on some individual projects exceeded $700,000 per unit.

The regulations in Omar's bill ensure that any new housing it does fund will have very high per-unit costs. Higher environmental standards mean higher costs. So will locating near transit hubs, where land is more expensive.

And while Omar bemoans "free market" housing, the fact is that the most regulated cities are also the most expensive.

Restrictive zoning, urban growth boundaries, and high development fees limit how much new housing can be built and the raises the costs of what new development is allowed. One 2018 study found that regulation is responsible for 32 percent of the costs of new multi-family housing.

Less regulated localities, by contrast, are more affordable.

"Wherever we have a relatively free market in housing, it works extremely well for poor people," says Furth. "If you look at where low-income Americans and immigrants are able to afford newish, relatively high-quality, relatively well-located housing, it's in low-regulation cities."

There's not much the federal government can do directly about local government restrictions on development, although both Democrats and Republicans have proposed tying federal funds to requirements that localities deregulate development in some way. It's an open question how effective that approach would be.

Still, it's a glaring omission that the Homes for All Act has nothing to say about easing development restrictions. Considered alongside the bill's ludicrous cost estimates, one gets the impression that while Omar might consider housing a fundamental human right, she doesn't appear very serious about actually securing it.

NEXT: The Marijuana Black Market Will Keep Its Throne in California, Thanks to Tax Increases

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. Section 8 for All!

    Bring Back Pruitt-Igoe!

    1. It Is Now Easier And More Realistic Than Ever Before In History To Make A Remarkable Income From The Comfort Of Your Own Home!

      1. h­­o­­m­­e­­j­­o­­b­­s­­c­­l­­u­b­­.­­c­­o­­m­­­­­­­­℠

  2. 3/4 campaign violating squad members disagree.

    1. It would be a refreshing change to see de corsets investigated for something. Clearly this bitch belongs in prison. Or better yet, repatriated back to Somalia. Where she belongs.

  3. Nothing like the ignorant young pols of today repeating the gross errors of a previous generation.

    1. They’re from the government. And, they’re here to help! 😉

  4. “spend $800 billion over the next 10 years developing 9.5 million new units of public housing”

    The affordable LA cargo container program for cheap housing only cost 600k per unit… why do I not believe her math?

  5. The legislation doesn’t explain how exactly these local governments would use the money to do that.

    They don’t explain this because they don’t care. They only care government has more and their enemies have less.

  6. I don’t know why you’re being so negative. When I think of a safe, well-maintained, desirable housing, the first thing that comes to my my mind is “The Projects”.

  7. That’s about the best thing you can say about it.

    The best thing is probably that it won’t see the light of day. These people come into office with no understanding of policy consequences and no desire to understand the problems they claim to want to tackle.

    1. What will happen is the first 300 million will be spent on local government planning and sending to homeless poor outreach groups that just happen to be paid democratic outreach groups as well.

    2. We should require that each of them open up any spare bedrooms in their own homes to a local homeless person.

      i.e. put their money where their mouth is…..

  8. I thought this clown was under investigation for sleeping with her minions or something, whatever happened with that?

    1. The minions are now strapped to the front end of ISIS armored technicals and rammed into Free Syrian strongpoints, inshallah.

  9. This is a religion at this point

  10. Where will she get the money?

    1. “Thanks for your contribution.”

  11. “Housing is a fundamental human right.”

    “That is why my bill would, for this purpose, appropriate every cave owned by the Federal Government.”

    1. Or…how many square miles of land in Nevada do the feds own?

      Let’s just demand they turn it into “affordable” housing so that we can meet all the “fundamental human rights’ of the poor, the elderly and of course, the children.

    2. Those caves are close to transit, right?

  12. While we’re working in fairy tales, I want my free house to come with half a dozen Swedish swimsuit models or it’s no deal.

    1. Sure but in 5 years those swedish super models are going to be fat and disgusting, like all housing projects without a sense of achievement they aren’t properly maintained.

      1. Yeah but in 5 years I’ll be voting for the next person offering free shit and I can just make them get me replacements.

        It’s like you’re not even thinking this through.

        1. More likely in 5 years you’ll be boinking their 4 y/o daughters.

    2. Done, but one of those Swedish models is Greta Thunberg.

      1. You’ve taught me a valuable lesson in being more specific in my contractual demands.

        Although if the other 5 are up to par this is probably still workable.

        1. In some states it’s legal!

          1. That’s true! I know it is where I live… Which as a guy in my 30s kind of weirds me out a bit. God forbid I ever sleep with a 16 year old again.

            Anyway, the key here is that the law has to state that the Swedish models must do ANYTHING you demand of them… No matter how depraved. For Greta you can just make here wash the soiled bed sheets, and keep a never ending coal fire burning in the back yard just to make her sads about CO2. 🙂

      2. How dare you!

      3. Talk about turning a good dream into a nightmare!!! I could have lived out the rest of my life happily without knowing that human or whatever it identifies as ever existed. That kid is a joke of a wildcard that dummies with more money than sense playes far to soon and all ppl worldwide did was laugh at her. The only good thing about her is that shes a prime example of just how desperate liberals are to hold on to they’re declining power over the ppl. Newsflash world, we dont care that we look like assholes anymore.

  13. Did you actually expect a good idea from someone who wears a towel on their head like they just got out of the shower?

    1. As if she showers.

    2. Bandages covering a massive head makes a lot more sense.

      1. Bah! Head wound.

    3. It covers the scars from her lobotomy.

  14. Omar’s bill would also create a $200 billion grant program to help local governments fight gentrification.

    Keep the ghettoes ghetto!

    1. So she allots money to usurp her plan, in her plan.

      1. Thus creating the need for yet another plan.

        1. The perpetual government spending machine!

          You’ll need to send a working model to th3 Patent Office when you file.

    2. What’s wrong with gentrification? Apart from rents and property values going up – and perhaps (some might say) white people displacing people of color, I can’t understand what’s wrong with cleaner, safer neighborhoods, better restaurants, and more service businesses (like dry cleaners). I suppose I can understand the push back against “yuppies” taking over neighborhoods and making them too expensive for the people that live (or lived) there – but I wonder if there’s some misplaced nostalgia for those affordable, un-gentrified neighborhoods that mostly haven’t existed for decades.

      1. The problem is that the left has been preaching that government “solves” these types of “problems”, and your new neighbor being able to afford to live there without government assistance kind of ruins the story.

      2. Honestly, as someone who has lived in a city and a neighborhood that has statistically seen more gentrification than basically anywhere else in the USA… It just kind of sucks.

        The truth is the neighborhood was already nice when I moved here. It was already a white neighborhood, but more a working class to middle-middle class neighborhood. But it wasn’t ritzy per se. Just decent. And had a lot of cool, truly local, truly unique stuff.

        Now it’s upper middle class to outright rich. The real problem with gentrification is that EVERY gentrified neighborhood is generic-ized nowadays. They’ve all lost their individual flavor. And the physical destruction of all the cool looking shit that also made it a nice place to live. And the increased density. And the fact that we have more crime now than when it was a “poorer” neighborhood. And a lot of other shit.

        It’s one of those things where I want to say “Whatever, it’s just how shit goes down!” But the truth is it fucking sucks. Which is why everybody bitches about it. I’m not saying the guvmint needs to pass a bunch of dumb laws to try to prevent stuff… If anything fewer housing regulations is what would prevent such concentration of re-development… But I don’t think it’s wrong to bitch about a place becoming shittier to actually live in by ones own personal, subjective standards. It’s hard to quantify “charm,” but according to polls in Seattle 90% of long time residents think what has happened to Seattle sucks balls.

      3. Gentrification makes the poor homeowners who sell at inflated prices to the rich homesteaders slightly more wealthy, ever middle class. Then they can leave the government plantation. Can’t have that.

    3. unfortunately, it wouldn’t also create the 200 billion dollars.

    4. Exactly!

      I can’t believe all the fools in local and state gov here in CA that get all up in arms about the gentrification of the mission district in SF.

      Just a decade or so ago, only a fool, drug addict or ignorant college went went into the Mission after dark.

      Now that it’s up and coming, they want to return it to ghetto land. After all, it’s only fair.

  15. “Our current free-market housing system is not meeting the needs of working families”

    False premise, the housing market is not free, and the places with the worst housing crises also have the least-free market

    1. It’s a lot like how the “free market” healthcare system didn’t work and so we got Obamacare.

      I don’t see why you’re complaining though, even a full 8 years later Obamacare has been widely regarded as a rousing success. Given that the Democrats’ meddling in the healthcare market worked so well I don’t see why they shouldn’t be given the opportunity to “fix” the housing market too.

      1. I don’t see why you’re complaining though, even a full 8 years later Obamacare has been widely regarded as a rousing success

        I’m looking forward to Trump pointing out the focal point of the Dem campaign is replacing Obamacare which wouldn’t be necessary if it worked. Further it fails just exactly as its critics predicted it would and Dems are reacting just exactly as Obamacare critics predicted they would: by doubling down to spend somewhere between twice and 40 times as much.

        1. And the government having control over who gets healthcare. That should be the most frightening thing about single payer.

          Just ask the next Prog proponent of single payer: Do you want Trump in charge of your healthcare? Why?

  16. If there is a housing problem in this country, it’s Drumpf’s fault. He’s ruined the economy to the point that many people cannot afford a roof over their heads.

    Know what will fix this problem? The Koch / Reason policy of unlimited, unrestricted immigration.


    1. The more the merrier, OBL.

    2. Are you a retarded person? Or just trolling? Not sure if serious.

      1. He’s like super serious.

    3. We already have that in CA. That’s why the trades are now strictly Spanish speaking. And why the new, non-contact voltage tester I just bought has only the brand name in English and all descriptions and instructions, are in Spanish.

      1. That’s exactly why I found a hot Latina to wife up. Hispanics are taking over and I wanted in on the ground floor of this invasion. Not to mention, shes is an amazing cook and knows that the kitchen is where she needs to be when shes not making me happy somewhere else ????.

  17. I believe that the government tried housing projects in the past.

    It did not end well.

    1. Oh, she and the activists that will get behind this have no interest in building projects. They’ve learned their lesson.

      Nope, they are interested in your property and your town. After all, you didn’t build that.

      What’s the antonym of gentrification?

      BTDT. Thank you Section 8.

      1. “To secure this fundamental human right, Omar’s legislation would spend $800 billion over the next 10 years developing 9.5 million new units of public housing.”

        Sounds like the projects to me.

    1. That’s probably a fair cost for a Tuff Shed-like domicile after the local politicians have embezzled their share.

    2. Buy everyone a large SUV with that 83K and it solves 2 problems at once.

    3. Tiny homes for all!

  18. >>>The congresswoman, a member of the so-called “Squad” of recently elected leftist legislators

    she wouldn’t be if you’d stop perpetuating the goddam name

  19. “end ______ once and for all.”

    Whenever a politician says this, least of all this bulbhead, it’s a guarantee that it won’t actually do what they say it will.

    Honestly, besides the graft, the only point of these proposals is to try and flood the system with welfare dependents until the edifice collapses. There was a similar bunch of demands for this in a recent protest on Oakland, and the whole thing reeked of the same commie Cloward-Piven tactics.

    1. You mean this?


      It absolutely astounds me that even though they did this openly and notoriously with lots of fanfare, no arrests were made or charges filed.

      This will spread. How long before they descend on my neighborhood while I am not at home and help themselves to anything I have?

      We have hit a new low in property rights.

  20. Everyone deserves safe, affordable, comfortable transportation. It’s a basic human right. When do we get SUVs for All?

    1. Unfortunately, the “right” to transportation will be used to fund “public” transportation.

      “You have the unlimited right to travel when and where we allow it.”

      1. Just more of those GD trains leftists love so much.

  21. I am a died in the wool centrist, but all of these insanely ignorant ideas from the left push me to the right come election time.

    This idea is ignorant. As is retiring college tuition debt, extending the school day, medicare for all and the list goes on.

    The worst part of all this isn’t the fact that it is a bad idea but the fact that these bigots on the left don’t really care about the topic.

    Increase liberty and reduce regulation should be the first step.

    1. >>>died in the wool

      impressive typist considering.

    2. And the bigoted pols that promote this kind of crap, can isolate themselves inside of gated communities and live without enduring the repercussions.

  22. If people took all the money they currently spend on housing (rent, mortgages, home improvements, etc.) and gave it to the government, we could have free public housing for everyone and it would be cheaper than what we are paying now!

    Hey, if it works for health care, why not?

  23. If she’s going to use words like “Human Rights” she really ought to know what it means. You are born with human rights, so the government can’t give them to you…they can only take them away. So the proper role of government is to keep others from infringing on the human right to seek their own shelter. And there are laws that do that. What she’s proposing isn’t a human right issue…it’s a vote-buying bribe with public money, as most government programs are. And she’s pissing all over the essence of true human rights. Deceitful and shameful.

  24. “Housing is a fundamental human right.” Yea, I know. My two 20 year (plus) olds lingering about in my basement ad Infinitum rent-free keep reminding me.

  25. I told my wife back in 2009 when they started the hard push for Obamacare that sooner or later they’d be coming after architects/developers, demanding that housing was a right.

    1. Collectivized Rights, by Ayn Rand, predicted this from the trend.

  26. “…That works out to a per-unit cost of $83,000…”

    I’m sure she’ll be happy to live in a 50sq.ft. abode.

  27. Has it ever occurred to any of these congressional whack jobs that NOT coercing people with constant threats of initiation of deadly force might go a long way toward reducing frustration and resentment? There may even be a golden rule about not doing unto others…

  28. In the Carboniferous Epoch we were promised abundance for all,
    By robbing selected Peter to pay for collective Paul;
    But, though we had plenty of money, there was nothing our money could buy,
    And the Gods of the Copybook Headings said: “If you don’t work you die.”

  29. As someone from MN, I’m sorry.

  30. The thing with “housing” (or whatever other positive right) being a “human right”….

    If you buy into that, you also must admit that any moment you are not active building houses (or whatever), you are ACTIVELY DENYING HUMAN RIGHTS.

    fucking idiots.

  31. You have to work and use the computer and internet, and if you can do that and dedicate some time each day then you can do this with no problem.
    I have been working with this for a month and have made over $2,000 already. let me know if you need more help.

    ………….ReaD MorE

  32. Two possibilities
    1. Omar is too stupid to realize the cause of the affordable housing problem
    2. Omar realizes the cause, and is actively lying in an effort to squander the money of others.
    Either way she does the country a disservice. I want neither the ignorant nor the evil having a say in how appropriated money is used.

    1. But the Capitol would be empty

  33. That works out to a per-unit cost of $83,000…

    1. The funny things about that is that is actually a totally fine number… In most of the GEOGRAPHICAL USA… But not where a lot of big population centers are.

      If you’re using modest apartment buildings as your standard, I bet you could build 1 or 2 bedroom units for that no problem in small town Kansas or Cleveland or whatever.

    2. And after all the graft, enough of that $83,000 will be left to put your family of four in two rooms in a barracks, with communal showers and toilets down the hall, and food in the mess hall.

    3. 1-2 bedroom units in small town Kansas?
      Not ten years ago, for $83k, you could commission and build a 2-bedroom row house in suburban Houston. Nothing fancy, but bad.

      $300k per apartment is absurd. You could buy a McMansion for that kind of money.

      1. Oh, I know. There are PLENTY of other places where you could get far more than that done for today too. I’m just sayin’ that’s a price high enough that even a government agency could probably get it done for that in many places!

        I bet there are places in the US where you can kick out decent sized 2 bedroom apartments in larger developments that have economies of scale for $50K, or less even.

        There are plenty of places where you can just BUY existing inventory of modest single family homes for that too. As I said below one of the biggest problems is in fact the geographic distribution of decent jobs in the USA today. Big companies need to start utilizing the “2nd tier” major cities more… Both for their own bottom line (lower salaries, taxes, and overhead costs) AND for the benefit of their employees and the nation at large.

  34. I have an idea: How about we cut 12 million low skill immigrants over the next decade and a half or two, and save ourselves the trouble of having to build all those subsidized houses?

    Deregulate housing restrictions and that would deal with half of it too, at a net SAVINGS to taxpayers.

    Also, the majority of the problem with housing in the USA is caused by a trend in big companies to concentrate their entire work force in just a few mega cities… If these stupid fucks (think tech, finance, etc) would just start opening up a few offices in Cleveland, St. Louis, Houston, and other cities that are cheap to mid priced, this whole thing would sort itself out.

    The thing that really gets me about that trend is that the businesses haven’t even been doing right for their own bottom line… They could pay lower wages in a lot of those places, their employees would have a far higher standard of living, and they could still be pocketing extra profits on top of.

    I’ve met FAR too many people who reluctantly moved to Seattle to work in tech, after trying very hard to find gigs in the part of the country they’re from, to believe the BS line that these companies HAVE to be here because not a SINGLE programmer wants to live anywhere but SF, Seattle, Boston, etc.

    Anyway, the real reason I know I’m right is because big tech is FINALLY starting to do just that… Chicago, Atlanta, Pittsburgh, and others are all starting to slowly see offices being opened there by big tech companies. Hopefully they speed up expansion in those areas vs the cities they’ve already ruined.

  35. If housing must be located near transit opportunities, does that mean there will be no new housing in rural America? Or can I ask my senior center to add a stop for their bus route to the property and qualify?

    1. No. It appears that Omar and her colleagues do not understand existence outside of major cities.

  36. Maybe she has a point, and millions of black Americans can’t function in society without us white people wiping their asses for them.

    1. That is the logical conclusion one would have to come to from how the left treats everything. They seem to believe it 100%, or else none of their policies/statements make any sense.

      Now whether or not it’s true… That’s another story. I think a lot of dysfunction in the black community could be fixed… But then there’s always Africa as the example of what black people do when there’s no/few honkies or Asians around… So you decide. LOL

  37. Wow! That’s an expensive proposal. paint contractor Orlando

  38. Amazing, introduce me Gisela is 25 years old, and currently works as marketing at emporium77, visit the website http://www.eropasport.com

  39. In which congressional districts will the housing be constructed? Asking for the local congress critter.

  40. This CUNT was just stepping of the boat from Somalia when they started tearing down projects like Cabrini Green in Shitcago and Fischer Projects in New Orleans. To bad they aren’t still around so we could send her to live there for a few years to see how great government housing turns out! It was such a utopia cops wouldn’t answer calls there!

  41. Just what we need more government-run slums. The government fails in just about everything. Public housing is the prime example.

  42. Really informative post. Can you tell me owner name?


  43. Anyone, who know more details about this proposal?


Please to post comments

Comments are closed.